In an interview with AsiaNews, she spoke about the case of Sr Mary Eliza, mother superior of a hostel (Prem Niwasa) for unwed mothers in Moratuwa (Colombo), which caused a sensation at home and abroad. Accused by the country’s National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) of selling babies, the Missionaries of Charity nun was arrested on 25 November, jailed for five days and sent to trial for illegal adoptions. At the same time, police and NCPA placed Prem Niwasa under seal and removed papers from the hostel.
Yesterday, a judge cleared Sr Eliza of all charges. She can now return to her hostel and the children and mothers it houses. Here is Sr Bernadette’s interview with AsiaNews.
As a woman religious and executive secretary of the Conference of Major Religious Superiors (CMRS) in Sri Lanka, how do you feel about the difficulties the Missionaries of Charity (MC) Sisters have experienced in recent days?
I felt and continue to feel very much for them; so do all the religious in Sri Lanka. In the CMRS, all religious congregations are making a big effort to work as one transforming collective force.
As soon as I received the news (about Sister Eliza’s arrest) I called the religious communities around Moratuwa. Many already knew what had happened and had gone to Rawathawatte. They too were questioned by the National Children Protection Authority (NCPA). We did the most important thing we could do, pray.
As CMRS executive secretary, I was in touch with Sr Johannes, the major superior of the MC, Sr Nilanthi, of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (FMM) and Fr Rohan Dominic, president of the CMRS.
Fr Dominic kept all the Major Superiors informed of what was happening, asking us to pray and stay calm so as not to hinder the legal procedures.
For our part, we major superiors were able to inform our communities via e-mail. Since the Sisters of Mother Teresa do not have access to Internet, I took upon myself the responsibility of receiving all the messages sent by religious around the country, print them out and hand them over to Sr Johannes. It was touching to see the Discalced Carmelites send messages.
How do you see the mission of the Sisters of Mother Teresa in Sri Lanka?
There are 30 different congregations of women religious in Sri Lanka, both apostolic and contemplative. Our charisms differ but we are one in spirit. Each congregation has to be faithful to their charism in proclaiming Christ in Sri Lanka.
The Missionaries of Charity are present in seven dioceses. The charism Mother Teresa gave them is “I THIRST”, the words Jesus pronounced on the cross. The Missionaries of Charity Sisters are called to satiate or quench the burning thirst of our Lord.
Like all religious, they take the three vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, and a fourth vow, to give "Wholehearted and free service to the poorest of the poor". Thus, the Missionaries of Charity Sisters welcome anyone in need who comes to them.
The Missionaries of Charity all over the world, including the eight communities in Sri Lanka, live according to this charism. From heaven, Mother Teresa must be telling the Prem Niwasa Missionaries of Charity how they are called to satiate and quench the thirst for Jesus on the Cross. In Mother’s words, “You know this is the chance for greater love”.